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Charges laid against Sanford's detained tuna fishing ship

The seafood company denies any wrongdoing and says it will "vigorously" defend the case.

Nevil Gibson
Wed, 07 Dec 2011

Seafood company Sanford is facing seven sea pollution and other charges in American Samoa over the operation of tuna fishing boat.

The San Nikunau has been detained since July 2011, when the US Coast Guard began an investigation into allegations it had been illegally dumping "oily bilge waste" for the past four years.

The US Deartment of Justice also alleges Sanford to maintain accurate oil records, obstruction of justice by presenting false documents and deceiving the US Coast Guard during an inspection.

If convicted, the DoJ says, the company could be fined up to $US500,000 per count plus the "gross gain or loss that resulted from the ciminal conduct." The indictment also seeks "criminal forfeiture" of more than $US24 million from  proceeds that Sanford derived from its actions.

Sanford denies the allegations and says it would never permit discharges of pollutants into the ocean or obstruct a reasonable investigation.

"We will be vigorously defending all the charges and continuing our efforts with authorities in American Samoa to get the vessel released to enable it to return to fishing," Sanford managing director Eric Barratt says.

Earlier reports have said Sanford petitioned the High Court there to release the ship on grounds it has not violated any laws and the detention is illegal.

The San Nikunau is one of Sanford's three large-scale tuna purse seiners, which catch mainly skipjack tuna, some of which is processed by one of the two canning factories in Pago Pago.

Sanford says the vessels operate under New Zealand maritime law but are also subject to regulations in American Samoa.

Nevil Gibson
Wed, 07 Dec 2011
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Charges laid against Sanford's detained tuna fishing ship